Letter to Tod

Dear Tod

Three years ago, today you left us and yes you left in your own imitable way – not quietly – not without a fight and on both your youngest son’s birthday and Father’s Day.  Quite a spectacular exit – but then I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

It’s not that today I think of you any more – I think of you every day but I guess 3 years is just another mile stone. You said to me not long before you died that you were worried that we would forget about you – my darling we talk about you all the time. Sometimes as if you are still here. We tell jokes on your behalf some I know of which you would not approve. And that’s the thing about losing someone so close to you they remain in your heart – forever. You don’t get over losing a long term partner you just learn to live with it.  And I will be taking you along with me on this next phase of my life – whatever it is.

Grief is a funny old thing I can be merrily chugging along doing my own thing and feeling relatively okay and then suddenly I do something and it hits me right there in the solar plexus and almost takes my breath away. It’s as if there is a little voice saying ‘so you thought you were doing ok well ….  ‘

Today I was writing Toby’s birthday card and I remembered how you always used to put at the end of your cards to me  ‘Love Me’ and it floored me because I realized that I will never get another card from you saying ‘Love Me.’ And yesterday when I was looking for somewhere to park the car I heard you saying ‘park in the shade Roma’. And I never forget your advice about remembering which side of the road to drive on which will come in very handy when the family dementia starts to rear its ugly head – actually I fear it has already started.

I miss sharing the boys with you, our soon to be granddaughter – how you wanted to be a grandfather and finally a girl.  Now I will have to do it for both of us.  I miss your odd food foibles like having to grate the onions because you didn’t like the texture, not wanting to eat anything green, your caffeine free diet coke and your cottage cheese mis mash.  They used to annoy me intensely but now – well I just smile.   Your praises for my meat loaf and chicken schnitzel and my constant efforts to get you  to eat healthily. In light of  what happened that was pretty pointless. I might as well have let you indulge in everything you wanted. And your lovely gifts on my birthday – especially the flowers which arrived every 3 weeks on a Friday. Dotted around the house are the constant Tod reminders. How could we ever forget you?

That said of course, I have forgotten all the things that you did that annoyed me because they are not there anymore – and how petty any way.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if you came back right now with this hindsight – well I think I would be a much nicer wife.

So I have made a unilateral family decision not to celebrate today because why should one celebrate death anyway.  Today I want to celebrate Toby’s birthday and we will celebrate you on your birthday in November. I hope that’s ok.

Wouldn’t it be great if you were allowed to come back for your birthday – well wherever you are for a visit. And I could go to Heathrow airport and there would be a special arrival place for those who have departed earth. Not sure how it would work – maybe a 2 weeks holiday for those people who have had a good and honest life. I suppose you would have to promise to whoever or whatever that you would not disclose the ever after. But I am sure it could be worked out.

You could however come and visit me – others I know have had visits from the dead but you haven’t as yet appeared. I did think one day that a pigeon might be you. Maybe it was.

You would be so proud of your boys right now.  They have turned into wonderful young adults. All those terrible teens, broken windows and awful fights – forgotten thankfully. And yes they look after me very well. I know you spoke to them about that.

Oh, Tod you would not believe the world we are living in right now – maybe you got out just in time.  I have been angry that you left so abruptly – it would have been good to have had someone to share lockdown with. I am constantly reminded of one of your frequent quotations that ‘human beings are not a viable specie’ which is so apt right now. But I think you would probably have fared quite well – I mean you weren’t actually the most sociable man and were more than happy to be at home with me.  And think of all the DIY you could have done!

So tomorrow evening we will be having a small party for Toby and of course after weeks of lovely warm sunshine storms are predicted. I am getting my usual anxious self and I can hear you saying ‘its just a few friends Roma.’ We will raise a glass to you and I promise that you will never ever be forgotten.

Snoopy always gets it so right.

You People

It’s been a while since I posted and for any of you that have missed me – apologies but there’s been a bit of a drought chez moi! Its the get- up- and- go thing that has got- up -and -gone. Leaving my head somewhat empty of ideas. But when I heard one of my close friends recount a recent experience I was drawn back to Serendipity

It’s a while since I have heard the expression ‘you people’ but I guess it’s not surprising in the current climate. Recently a girlfriend interviewed an eminent retired journalist from a well know broad sheet and not a right wing one – who in answer to one of her questions said “Well you people don’t want to spend your money ”.  Of course ‘you people’ could mean lots of different things but in this particular instance it was immediately understood what he meant by ‘you people’. Perhaps the give away was ‘don’t want to spend your money’.

My friend was stunned firstly by the seemingly unprovoked attack and also at how easily it slipped from his lips – without any forethought.   He, of course, realized immediately he had said the wrong thing. But here’s the thing, anti-Semitism is just bubbling underneath the surface and right now and with the anti-Israel feeling running high anti-Semites feel they have a free get out of jail card. And if even this so-called well educated, respected journalist can express such bigotry well…. I wish I could name and shame him – but I won’t.

Am I scared by the rise in anti-Semitism? Am I thinking I might leave the country? No this is not Germany in the 30’s and I don’t believe the government here – or in fact any British government would allow the rise of anti-Semitism?  But I do think it is time that we all shout out.  Keeping our heads down and hoping it will disappear is not enough. Silence is violence and just like the Black Life Matters which I have support 100% so do Jewish Lives Matter.  Would this journalist have said to a black person ‘you people’ and had he done so I doubt I would be writing this anonymously. But somehow it is deemed acceptable to make Jewish jibes.

I have never really understood why people dislike Jews – maybe they have met one Jew they did not like, or had a bad experience in the work place with a person who was Jewish but we are not a homogenous race.  Like any group of people there are good and bad. Unlike David Baddiel, I do not see myself as an ethnic group.    I always describe myself as British and my religion albeit not practicing Jewish.  Like those who are British Christians, British Catholics, British Muslims etc.  

Of course, anti-Semitism in the UK is not new I suppose I had just hoped that we have become better educated. At school in the fifties, I was the only Jewish person in my school and because my mother thought I should not attend morning assembly; I was an oddity. It was not long after the war and there was a feeling among some people that if it had not been for the Jews there would not have been a war. And there were teachers made it quite clear that they didn’t like Jews.

  Sitting at the back of the class during religious instruction I felt that I personally was responsible for the death of Jesus. And the way it was taught so did my fellow pupils.   Fortunately, in my adult life I have not experienced much anti-Semitism.  My mother, who didn’t look Jewish always said work colleagues would make anti Semitic remarks in front of her not knowing her identity. It made her afraid and when my father died, she decided to take the ‘i’ out our surname on her letterbox as it looked too Jewish and she felt vulnerable.

Recently I met with a Syrian refugee who when recounting his arduous journey to the UK explained that once he was here, he had to learn and understand the cultural differences between his homeland and the UK. So he educated himself.

“Before I left Syria I had very strange views about women’s rights and Jewish people. It was the culture of my country and upbringing but through education I have learnt to see women in a different light and that Jewish people are not bad. Learning is easy unlearning difficult. Nobody is born a racist – but one learns this. “

I realize that the latest outburst of anti-Semitism has much to do with Israel and the recent conflict and this is not something that I want to go into right now.  This post is not about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This is about anti-Semitic behaviour in the UK.  When my friend recounted her experience with this journalist, I was shocked that an educated man could glibly make these remarks.  So, my request is that we all call it out.  Wanting to free Palestine is not an excuse for anti-Semitism.    Don’t let casual remarks such as ‘you people’ be allowed to circulate.  We all have a duty to ensure that bigotry is stamped out before it gets out of hand.